September 2014
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A Dark and Stormy Night

A few weeks ago I thought that perhaps the rainy season was finally coming to an end. We’d had a string of mostly dry days and the Mekong had begun to recede. However, the past several days have given us some torrential rain and intense lightning, and last night was a real doozy.

It started raining hard around 7 p.m. and continued coming down in buckets for almost two hours. The lightning wasn’t bad at first, but it eventually became quite a light show. I stood on our wooden stairs and opened the shutters of one of the open-air windows to watch. The din on our metal roof was deafening, and the rain cascading down the neighbor’s furrowed roof was a waterfall as the lightning began. I like to count the number of seconds between the flash and the thunder, thereby getting a general idea of how far away the lightning is striking. (Six seconds equals approximately one mile.) So, one-thousand-one, one-thousand-two, etc., up to, say, 18 seconds. About three miles away, near the main road to Vientiane.

It was difficult to keep up with all the flashes, they were coming so quickly. Then, a brilliant flash, one … two … thr … BOOM! Our wooden house (and I) shuddered under the sound wave that hit. It was right in our backyard, so to speak. Then another and another. I had a fleeting thought that it might be possible to lose your eyesight from white-hot flashes of lightning. The power went out, but, surprisingly, only briefly. Sometimes these storms knock it out for hours.

Around 9 o’clock the heavy rain and lightning diminished and eventually stopped, though we had a slight drizzle throughout the rest of the evening and into the early hours of the morning. As I rode to work this morning, I noticed that the Mekong had risen enough that two of my three island markers were under water. The third, larger than the other two, looked like it could be submerged any day. Luckily, the forecast into next week seems to show that rainfall here might be lessening, though any heavy upstream rain could have an impact here, of course. The Mekong still has a ways to go before it comes calling, so, “rain, rain, go away . . .” More later.